Preparation For Ministry – A Review by Bob Thomas
A review by Bob Thomas of Preparation For Ministry.1
Carl Trueman calls this book ‘A brief but brilliant book on ministry’, and so it is. Allan Harman’s wisdom gathered over half a century’s involvement in theological education, more latterly as Professor of Old Testament and then Principal of the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne, is distilled here for the guidance, encouragement and blessing of those who sense the call of God to the ministry. ‘The call’ can come in many ways. Ones that I have heard of range all the way from ‘angels dancing on the dashboard of the car’ (no, I didn’t take that one seriously) to a deep, recurring, inner conviction of God Himself calling one to ministry, confirmed by external discernment. Professor Harman here gives guidance for discerning one’s call that is eminently suitable for ‘the religion of a sound mind.’ He begins by laying down the first requirement for those who are offering for the ministry: that they be converted men with zeal for the glory of God and a desire to save souls. (‘You need to know that you are right with God if you are going to call others into obedience to Christ … There is no place in ministry for an unconverted pastor.’) Then he gives a staged approach to preparing for ministry from prior and preparatory training right up to first steps in ministry. He provides a helpful check list (pp. 6, 10) of qualities a pastor needs to have, while numerous footnotes give references to other publications which flesh out and confirm the points he makes himself.
Following Professor Harman’s own essay, Spurgeon’s The Minister’s Self-Watch from Lectures To My Students is published in full – which should surely whet the appetite for devouring more of ‘The Prince Of Preachers’ writing, then B.B. Warfield’s The Religious Life Of Theological Students – another valuable contribution to the subject.
While this book is primarily aimed at prospective students for ministry, however, it has a much wider usefulness. Those of us who have been long in the Lord’s service could do well to read it and in its light examine ourselves as to how we too measure up to the demands of ministry. Perhaps we might need to ‘fan the flame that is in us’, especially as the final laps of our course begin to press upon us. Perhaps we might need to beg the Lord to ‘restore the years that the swarming locust has eaten’, especially if we have been the victims of a liberal ‘theological education’. Perhaps there are even some who have never given thought to the state of their own souls, going through the motions of ministry but without conviction and zeal, without even a right relationship of their own with the Lord Jesus Christ. And those of us who have benefitted directly from Professor Harman’s ministry might just be moved to offer a prayer of thanks to the Lord for a man whom He raised up and who revolutionised the study of the Old Testament in particular and theological education in general.
Whether we treat this book as a template to hold ourselves up against if we are contemplating entering into ministry or as a challenge by which to assess our work so far for the Lord if we have been in the work for some time, or even if we are not involved in the ministry ourselves but want to understand something more of ‘what makes a minister tick’, this book’s sanctified common sense arising from a sound Biblical foundation will shed light on the way ahead.
Taken with permission from Australia’s online magazine New Life, February 15, 2016, edited by Bob Thomas.